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European mountain bike season gets underway in Cyprus

The Cyprus Sunshine Cup will open the European mountain bike season at Voroklini on Sunday. 2010 race winners Jan Skarnitzl of the Czech Republic and Annika Langvad of Denmark will be back to defend their titles. It will be the first event of the three-race series.

The Sunshine Cup will provide the first glimpse of how racers from all over the world have fared with their winter training.

In the women's race, 30 are pre-registered including Langvad, Slovakian Janka Stevkova and Slovenian Blaza Klemencic. Stevkova was the runner-up in 2010. Four cross World Cup winner Anneke Beerten is also jumping into Voroklini's cross country competition.

Under 23 world champion Alexandra Engen of Sweden may also take part but as she is contending with health problems, her participation is unconfirmed.

Skarnitzl is facing a host of strong contenders in the elite men's race. He'll battle Czech compatriot Jiri Friedl and the whole Rabobank Giant Team, lead by American Adam Craig, Swiss Fabian Giger and Dutchman Henk-Jaap. Finn Jukka Vastaranta and Dutchman Jelmer Pietersma, two Milka-Trek teammates of Beerten's, will also be racing. Finally, Swiss Under 23 racer Thomas Litscher and Germans Torsten Marx, Stefan Sahm and René Tann make up part of the 70-racer strong men's field.

Racers will compete on a 6.1km cross country course not far from Larnaka.

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the race in Voroklini.

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